Parenting Paths Cross: Single Mothers Share Importance of Community

Yana Bailey (left)
with her daughter, Lauren, and son, Lee. | Photo by Pablo Raya

It may take a village to raise a child, but every village looks different.

For single mothers Yana Bailey and Lonyetta Yamoah-Manuh, their village was, in part, each other.

Bailey met Yamoah-Manuh about 10 years ago at church, when Bailey was tabling for Lupus awareness. At the time, both women were working single mothers with young daughters and connected over their similarities.

Soon, Yamoah-Manuh, a 42-year-old mother in Fredericksburg, would bring her daughter, Lauren, now 17, over to Bailey’s to play with Ayana, now 19, every weekend. The daughters and mothers became fast friends.

“It’s like having a second sister, a second mom, that extended family,” Yamoah-Manuh says. “It’s somebody that I could really trust with my daughter.”

Over a decade later, Bailey, 45 and living in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and Yamoah-Manuh are still friends and see each other about once a month. Though their journeys have taken them in different directions, their similarities in motherhood have kept them intertwined. Both women have been single mothers twice, with two sets of kids about a decade apart: Bailey has a 5-year-old son, Lee, and Yamoah-Manuh a set of 6-year-old twins, Laila and Lila.

As Mother’s Day approaches, these two parents are reflecting on their paths as single mothers.

What has been the importance of finding support in community as a single mother?

Yamoah-Manuh: It’s just playing that role of auntie, just being able to have someone to talk to or just for babysitting reasons, or just to be able to have playdates and have your kids be around other kids in other environments that you trust because there’s so much going on in the world now….You have to be aware of what type of people [are] around the kids—whether they’re smoking, drinking, how they’re dressing [and], of course, child predators. There’s just so much in the world that being a single parent, you have to be ultra-aware of what’s going on in wherever your kids are going to be.

Bailey: It’s also cost-saving; you know where your children are; you are familiar with the family, the mom; and it also feels good to help others who are in an alike situation.

What has been a difference between being a single mother for the first versus second time?

Yamoah-Manuh: With the twins, I already know the importance of having those friend groups and making sure that, even if you don’t have the family support, that it is important to have those friends that you can depend on and that you could talk to, even if they can’t be your weekender, your weekend mom. You can still talk to them and vent, and get things off your chest, and bounce ideas off and just be an adult with [them] — because we’re around our kids so much that we don’t get that outlet.

Bailey: The biggest lesson is taking care of yourself and having the emotional stability and wherewithal to be present as a parent, which, I think it takes some maturity, and it can take even going to counseling just to make sure that you are able to be a present parent. Because you only get one chance to parent, and it goes by very, very fast. I’m more financially stable now, which also is a big part of it. And possibly because I’m more financially stable, I’m able to be more present because I’m not in that figuring-
out stage.

What’s a piece of advice you’ve gotten from another single mother?

with her
Laila and Lila. | Photo provided

Yamoah-Manuh: Just the juggle of life-work balance. I talked to Yana all the time, and she’s like, ‘We have to, of course, make money for the kids. We have to be able to take care of them. We have to provide, but we also have to make time to be fun and to make time for the kids where they’re actually allowed to be kids. We can’t always be in parent mode.’

Bailey: It would be from my aunt, who I look up to, and she’s a divorcee (and she raised two kids on her own after getting a divorce), and [it] is: Don’t stop your life. If you have passions, if you have goals, don’t stop your life. You have to figure out how to still do what you want to do in your life.…You have to figure out how to be a parent and be yourself.

What advice would you give a single mother?

Yamoah-Manuh: Take time for yourself. Although you’re a mom, and a single mom, you do have to take time for yourself because if you’re not good, then the kids can’t be good.

Bailey: You have to practice self-care, like, what can you do to get your mind off of today’s stresses? Or what’s going to help you get up in the morning to get them ready, to get through school on time?


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